THE 86 SPECIAL – Single Review: “Dancing By The Moonlight”

From the ashes of what was the beloved West Sussex alternative rock band Third Time Luckie rises a new band The 86 Special. Calling their sound “modern day pop rock accompanied by 80s synth & stadium rock”, they aim to tickle our earbuds with music that’s retro, yet fresh, and always exciting. The 86 Special is made up of two former Third Time Luckie members Chris Horner (bass & lead vocals) and Carl Swietlik (drums), as well as Matt Dawe (rhythm guitar & vocals), Dom Parris (lead guitar & vocals) and Jake Rae (synth & keys). The band is so new that they don’t have any official photos yet.

They’ve just recorded their first song “Dancing By The Moonlight“, along with a promotional lyric video. It’s upbeat, catchy and fun, with a retro 80s blend of pop, rock and post-punk grooves that call to my mind some of the songs from bands like The Go-Go’s, Huey Lewis & the News and The Cars. The guys serve up a mix of jangly and fuzz-coated guitars, humming bass and snappy drumbeats, creating an exuberant, head-bopping song that’ll have even the worst wallflower heading straight for the dance floor. I especially love Jake’s lively piano keys that are liberally sprinkled throughout the track. Chris’s pleasing vocals are perfect for the song, and nicely accompanied by Matt and Dom’s backing harmonies. Great job all around guys!

The song is scheduled for release on May 18 for streaming and download on all major music platforms.

 

New Song of the Week – JAMES BAKIAN: “Find Me”

James Bakian is an exceptionally talented, hard working and charismatic young singer/songwriter from London, England. He wrote his first song at the age of six, began studying piano at seven, and released his first EP By Your Side in 2016 when he was only 13. He followed up in late 2017 with his appropriately-named second EP Unstoppable, a really fine effort featuring six tracks. Since then, the prolific artist has released an astonishing 18 singles, his latest of which, “Find Me,” drops today, March 13th. I’m pleased to choose the soulful track as my New Song of the Week.

James Bakian 2020

James writes all his lyrics and music, records all the instruments, and produces his own songs. I’ve been following him for over three years, and it’s been gratifying to watch him grow professionally. Now 16, his songwriting, music and vocals get better and better as he matures, and he’s grown from a cute kid into a teen heartthrob. (I’ve featured him three times previously on this blog, and you can check out those reviews, which are listed under ‘Related’ at the bottom of this page.)

“Find Me” is languid and sultry, highlighted by James’ sublime piano keys that have an almost jazzy feel. With his piano riff as a centerpiece, he adds warm, shimmery synths of strings and gentle percussion to create a romantic soundscape for his smooth and soulful layered vocals. As James has matured, his voice has likewise deepened quite nicely. The music, melody and vocals are all incredibly pleasing, resulting in an exceptional track.

The lyrics speak of longing for a girl to the point of obsession, even though she barely knows that you exist:

Just leave me be
I’m doing my own thing
Didn’t suspect that you would notice me
Tryna figure out if I still fit in my skin
And I ain’t tryna change
Take me back
Back to the time when I didn’t have a care in the world and I knew I had a purpose
I don’t wanna live in a world where I can’t share my life with somebody who is worth it

I think I’ve found a girl but she gotta find me
Cause I know that one day ima call her baby
and I’ll tell her what I want whispering it slowly
When I look at that smile I keep going crazy

I keep dreaming ‘bout you
Always longing for you
Ain’t no reason not to
And I’ve been meaning to let you know
I keep dreaming ‘bout you
Always longing for you
Ain’t no reason not to
Oh-oh-oh
I’ll let you know one day as long as you find me
I’ll let you know one day as long as you find me

Girl you got what I been needing
Everything about you turns me on
Do I gotta have an explanation
I’m obsessed with you is that wrong?
Tell me what I need to do
If I wanna spend whole my life with you
I’ve been all alone in my feelings
Ain’t nobody who make me feel like you do

Ain’t nobody, ain’t nobody, ain’t nobody
Ain’t nobody make me feel like you do
Ain’t nobody, ain’t nobody, ain’t nobody
Ain’t nobody make me feel like you do

Connect with James:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music on  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple MusicYouTube
Purchase on  iTunesGoogle Play

MELOTIKA – Single/Video Review: “Bury The Bones”

Melotika2

Melotika is an indie/alternative pop artist born and raised in Montreal, and now based in Toronto. The alter-ego of singer/songwriter Mel Yelle, her distinctive, sultry vocal styling and exotic beauty set her apart from other female artists. With a strong sense of individuality and determination coupled with an endearing vulnerability, she writes brutally honest and relatable lyrics touching on subjects of relationships, love, and how social media and pressures to conform can affect our emotional well-being.

I featured Melotika on this blog twice in 2018, when I reviewed her previous singles “Unaware Part II [Blindside]” and “Bittersweet Reality“.  On February 18th, she dropped her latest single “Bury The Bones“, a dark, haunting song about a woman who’s a psychopathic killer. The song was co-written by Melotika and New York-based songwriter and producer Gory Gloriana, and produced, mixed and mastered by Sean Savage. About the song, she explains: “‘Bury The Bones’ reveals suppressed dark emotions about an unhealthy, fictional love story. As a society, we have a weird obsession with psychopaths, murder and lust. This song is a creative take on these subjects from the perspective of an individual with an unsettling mind.”

The song opens with sounds of someone digging shovelfuls of earth, backed by gentle, mysterious synths and Melotika’s eerily chants of “do it”, conjuring up images of a black night where something really bad is about to go down. A languid beat kicks in as the music swells with a darkly beautiful mix of contrasting shimmery and gnarly keyboard synths, increasing the sense of unease.

Melotika’s sultry vocals are amazing, conveying a quiet desperation bordering on menacing as she entreats her lover in a thinly veiled threatening manner to not abandon her, or else he will pay:

Stepping by your place, I can’t erase you
Another face, that I cannot replace
Take another toll, tell me you want more
Loathsomeness; I can’t ever love

Don’t ever leave
Don’t let me down
Don’t take the best of me
What goes around comes back around

You may abandon me but
My heart beats steadily for you
Cold dirt can’t hold me down
Walk away and bury the bones

Finally reaching a point of madness, her voice rises to a chilling shriek in the chorus as she implores:

I can never love someone
I’m your contaminated loaded gun
Don’t you ever leave my friend
Don’t you let me down

The dark and brilliant video, written by Melotika and filmed and directed by Eric Soto, brings the lyrics to life in a kind of horror film vignette. A couple, played by Melotika and her real-life boyfriend and songwriter/rapper Krosst Out, are shown walking to and entering her apartment after a night out. We’re shown scenes of them together, juxtaposed with scenes of her in her bedroom, singing the lyrics. They get comfortable, and she goes into the kitchen to arrange the flowers he gave her and pour them glasses of wine while he watches a video of her on TV. Problem is, she’s slipped some poison into his glass, and he soon drops dead. While all this is happening, the camera pans the numerous framed photos of other men on a nearby table. The video ends with yet another man appearing at her door with a bouquet of flowers, and the cycle begins again.

Connect with Melotika on  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase on iTunes or BandcampGoogle Play

BARREN GATES & HARLEY BIRD – Single Review: “Last”

It’s not every day that I get the opportunity to meet a real-life music artist up close and personal, but that was the case this past November, when I had the pleasure of meeting Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter and musician Harley Bird. He and his girlfriend are good friends with my nephew, and came along with him to my home for Thanksgiving dinner. Harley’s as gracious and kind as he is talented and handsome, and we had a great time discussing and sharing music. He’s just released a dark and powerful new single “Last“, in collaboration with L.A.-based music producer Barren Gates, which I’m thrilled to feature today.

Harley Bird
Harley Bird

A native of L.A., Harley has been involved with music for many years. He has a beautiful voice and undeniable charisma that make him a successful artist who’s very much in demand. He started out honing his craft by busking on the streets, and was the front man for alt-rock band The Shadow Heist from 2014-16. But his career really took off after he posted his cover of a song he recorded on Instagram. An electronica music producer who saw the post reached out to him about working together on his song that needed lyrics and vocals. Once they released that song, some of the music producer’s peers reached out to Harley about doing collaborations with them, and things spread like wild fire from there. Over the past four years, Harley’s worked with other musicians and producers both in the L.A. area and across the globe on scores of songs that have collectively racked up over 45 million streams on Spotify.

Barren Gates
Barren Gates

Barren Gates (aka Brandon Lutowsky) is a highly accomplished and prolific electronic music producer and composer who’s also collaborated with numerous other artists on more than 40 songs and remixes. He and Harley previously worked together on their songs “Tomorrow” and “S.O.S.”, and “Last” is their latest collaboration. Barren arranged and produced the song, while Harley wrote the lyrics and melodies, played piano and sang vocals. The song has been released through the indie label Valiant Records.

The song opens with the sounds of Harley’s haunting piano chords, then quickly expands into an ominous and captivating soundscape of dark, spooky synths. Eventually, Barren injects a deep, grinding trap beat into the mix, taking the track into even darker territory. At about 1:17, the beats stop and the music calms back down to an interlude of the dark, reverby synths and bewitching piano keys we heard earlier. The music gradually swells, once again exploding into a repeat of the heavy, crushing trap beats that continue through to the end of the song.

With a vulnerable urgency in his breathy vocals, Harley lays bare his soul to a woman he’s strongly attracted to, fearing she may be toying with his emotions in order to use him, but hoping that perhaps her intentions are sincere: “Draw us in and kick us out. Girl you look so fuckin’ proud. Should I stay or should I go? I’ve gotta chase, I’ve gotta know. / I know I’m not the first guy to try tonight. But maybe I’ll be your last.” It’s a brilliant and stunning track.

Connect with Harley Bird: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music: Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple MusicYouTube

Connect with Barren Gates: FacebookTwitter / Instagram
Stream his music: Spotify / SoundcloudApple Music

Erki Pärnoja – Album Review:”Leva”

Erki Parnoja LEVA album art

Though the vast majority of artists and bands I’ve featured on this blog have been from the US, UK, or Canada, I always enjoy writing about ones from other nations. In the past week or so, I’ve featured a band from Malta and a music producer from Luxembourg, and am now thrilled to introduce my very first artist from the Baltic nation of Estonia: the astonishingly talented songwriter, composer, producer and multi-instrumentalist Erki Pärnoja. Based in the capital of Tallinn, Pärnoja plays guitar, bass, keyboards and synthesizers, and creates some of the most exquisite instrumental music I’ve heard in a very long while. Using an impressive array of instruments and textures, he weaves lush, dreamy soundscapes that envelop us in layers of shimmery atmospheric gossamer. Seriously, his music is fucking gorgeous!

He’s been recording and releasing music for the past five years, beginning with his late 2015 debut EP Himmelbjerget. He followed that EP with two stunning albums, the guitar-dominant Efterglow in 2017 and more synth-oriented Saja Lugu in 2018, both of which I’ve immersed myself with over the past several days. The track “Ranna I” from Saja Lugu has been streamed more than 2.3 million times on Spotify. All three works are exceptional, and I highly recommend that my readers check them out on one of the music streaming platforms listed at the end of this review.

Now Pärnoja is back with a glorious new album Leva, which dropped on February 12. His previous works have all been instrumental-only, however with Leva, Pärnoja for the first time introduces lyrics and vocals on some of the tracks. Also, while still delivering his signature enchanting melodies and dreamy soundscapes, he now injects a more orchestral perspective, along with more exotic elements that give the album a fresher, more eclectic feel.

The album was recorded in Gothenburg, Sweden in early 2019, and features a number of guest musicians. In addition to Swedish producer/keyboardist Filip Leyman and Danish drummer Ulrik Ording (Pärnoja’s loyal collaborators since his debut album) are Estonian singer-songwriter Anna Kaneelina, Swedish marimba player Love Meyersson, and the string quartet Prezioso. The striking artwork for the album cover was painted by Estonian artist/photographer Riina Varol, and incorporated into a beautiful cover design by Estonian artist Helmi Arrak. Pärnoja has written wonderful little explanations for each of the seven tracks on Leva that provide insight into his creative process, and enable us to more fully understand and enjoy each song. I will quote or paraphrase from them in my own discussions of each track.

The title of the opening track “Maa” is the Estonian word for “land” or “country”, and serves as an introduction to the album, both musically and conceptually. Pärnoja explains: “The whole album is about living and the different lives people lead, and that we can’t really get a look into other people’s worlds. The song gradually reveals a view into one world. It starts off as a harmless dreamy waltz, and moves with baby steps into this vast open field with all the space and possibilities in the world.” His words perfectly describe how the instrumentals and dreamy synths gradually expand into a lush soundscape like a field bursting into color with the first warmth of Spring. Although primarily an instrumental track, he uses his voice almost like an instrument with his lovely ambient background vocals.

The gorgeous Middle-Eastern infused “Fatigue” was inspired by the music of Algerian band Tineariwen, which Pärnoja first heard around ten years ago. It happened to be playing on the sound system in a second hand store in Toronto he walked into, and he immediately loved it. The use of what sounds like a zither or oud, along with Moroccan castanets. give the song it’s enchanting Middle-Eastern flavor. Parnoja states that the song is a kind of tribute to Tineariwen that came to him in one big rush. “The dreamy state symbolizes a need for something more or something better, and the continuous loops are the circles that always try to catch us and take us back to their cycles.”

The title track “Leva” is positively stunning, with layers of strummed guitars, backed by enthralling strings that give the song a haunting, otherworldly feel. The lyrics are in Estonian, a language closely related to Finnish, and beautifully sung by Pärnoja and his wife Anna Kaneelina. Nearly seven minutes in length, “Leva” almost sounds like two different songs, and in fact, the first time I listened to it on my smart phone though earbuds, I thought it was two separate tracks. The first part, which is more gentle and melodic, seems to end at 4:07, then two seconds later the music starts back up with a heavier, electric guitar-driven sound, deeper bass, stronger percussion and more passionate vocals.

About the song, Pärnoja explains: “This is most certainly the song that started it all. It holds the essence of the whole album. It became clear to me that even if you are content with your life, and if everything seems to be in order, you can still be going in circles and not be moving on in life. It might just be that you’re in the same place as you were years ago, and it’s only minor details of your life that have changed. I realised that I want to live more and better and make good use of my time.”

Here’s a lovely acoustic performance of “Leva”. For this version, Pärnoja and Jonas Kaarnamets played guitar, Pärnoja and Anna Kaneelina sang vocals, Peedu Kass played acoustic bass, Kristjan Kallas played drums, and Prezioso played strings.

Island” is a fairly simple, breezy track constructed with recurring cycles of loops, augmented with charming twangy guitars and lots of abstract sounds that convey a sunny, windswept sense of freedom. It’s a wonderful song that just makes me feel hopeful and happy. Next up is “Eha“, a beautiful, sweeping track that reminds me of some of the more atmospheric-sounding songs by Coldplay. The song title translates to “dusk” in English, and Pärnoja states it’s “a dreamy cinematic journey dedicated to a present-day soul. It is a story about the search for inner peace and belonging. It is also a wake-up call to one’s self to take a breath and look around.” He adds that “the occasionally atonal strings symbolise the dissonances we have within just before making a decision for a new direction.” His soft vocal croons are sublime, in perfect harmony with the gently soaring synths and strings as if they’re another component in his colorful instrumental palette.

Another standout track for me is the captivating “Soledad“, which is Spanish for “solitude”. The languid song has a slight Latin sensibility, though in no way does it sound like a Latin or Spanish song. The layered strummed guitars and sparkling keyboards are really marvelous, and this time, the lyrics are mostly in English, and sung by Pärnoja and Kaneelina’s enthralling vocal harmonies. Pärnoja explains the meaning behind the song: “The meaning of solitude has changed a lot for me. Once it used to have a negative meaning, but back then I must have mistaken it for loneliness or abandonment. Now in a time when society is seemingly social to the extreme, I came to re-evaluate the meaning of the word. There is a big contradiction to this, since hidden behind this big socially-connected world, there are a lot of people that are lonely, and not at peace with themselves. Loneliness makes them reach out to another world. ‘Soledad’ is a hymn to solitude – the only place where I personally can grow and make peace with myself.

The artful and compelling video for “Soledad” was produced and directed by  Kärt Hammer, and stars Edgar Vunš as the dancer who interprets the song through his passionate yet graceful movements.

The final track “Saudade” actually has a more pronounced Spanish guitar, which Pärnoja beautifully strums throughout the song. At first, all we hear is his guitar, then he begins to sing in a mournful yet beautiful chant, backed by what sound like his own vocal harmonies. The music gradually grows more animated and the vocals more impassioned as swirling synths are added to create a sparkling, cinematic soundscape. Parnoja states that this track sums up the album, and that the title is basically untranslatable, but represents “the presence of absence. It is a longing for someone or something that you remember fondly, but know you can never experience again.” I’ve experienced such human encounters and moments myself throughout my life, and their memories can elicit intense feelings of joy or sadness.

I feel I’ve used up all the superlatives I can think of to describe Leva, but folks, this is a magnificent work of musical art. With only seven tracks totaling 36 minutes of run time, it’s a bit on the short side for an album, however, each track is so exquisite and powerful that it feels almost monumental in scope. With an EP and three albums to his credit, Erki Pärnoja is without question one of the finest composers and producers of ambient instrumental music around today. I love his music and I love this album.

Catch Pärnoja at one of these upcoming shows:

Friday, April 3 – LEVA release show, Korjaamo, Helsinki, Finland
Saturday, April 11 – Südaöine, EELK Tallinna Jaani kogudus ja kirik, Tallinn, Estonia
Saturday, May 2 – Jazz.ee ja Saare KEK LIVE, SAARE KEK, Kuressaare, Estonia
Thursday, May 7 – Jazz.ee ja Rüki Galerii LIVE, Rüki galerii, Viljandi, Estonia
Friday, May 15 – Jazz.ee ja Haapsalu Jazziklubi LIVE, Haapsalu kultuurikeskus, Haapsalu, Estonia
July 3-4 – VÕNGE 2020. Rändav kultuurifestival, Mulgi elamuskeskus, Sooglemäe, Tõrva vald, Valgamaa, Latvia

Connect with Erki: Facebook / Instagram
Stream his music: Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase: Google Play / Bandcamp

New Song of the Week – TOBISONICS: “All These Things”

Tobisonics All These Things Cover Art

Tobisonics is the music project of Toby Davis, a longtime music producer, composer and writer based in Luxembourg. He’s used his creative vision and talents mixing, mastering or remixing other artists and bands’ music for some time, but more recently, has chosen to create his own solo works. For his first effort, released in December 2018, he teamed up with the theatrical, genre-bending Las Vegas-based duo Fans of Jimmy Century to re-imagine their modwave neo-noir song “Noirstar (Memories of His City)”, which he redubbed “Noirstar (Dark City Edition)”. Giving their song a cinematic synthscape treatment resulted in a dark and sexy track with a slightly menacing vibe that artfully conveys the sense of excitement, titillation and danger inherent in big city life. I wrote a review of the track, which you can read here.  Now he returns with a brand new single “All These Things“, which I’ve chosen as my New Song of the Week.

He states that the song is a bit of a departure for him, as he usually works primarily with virtual instruments and midi, whereas this one is more loop-based and more pop. He provided some background for the song and his inspiration behind it, including an admission that he’s struggled with PTSD, chronic anxiety and depression for years, and only rediscovered music in his mid 30s. “I’d played in bands as a teenager, but hadn’t picked my guitar up for over 15 years. It’s like the depression drowned out the music in me. Once I started seeing a psychiatrist and taking anti-depressants, the music just flowed. I couldn’t have stopped it, if I’d wanted to. I’ve always been pretty open about my depression and anxiety. The reasons that lie beneath, I’m not so open about. I guess that’s where the music comes in.

‘All These Things’ explores a difficult subject matter, but remains a compelling piece of
contemporary pop, painted in fiercely percussive tones and an ear-catching vocal hook. It begins as an apparently simple love song, painted in soulful tones and lo-fi beats.
The infectious chorus ‘All these things I remember’ arrives early, perhaps nostalgic for a summer love. But as the track unfolds, a darker truth emerges, one that can not be forgotten nor easily escaped: ‘Nobody can stop me, I am running’.”

Tobisonics skillfully employs a colorful kaleidoscope of sultry keyboards, mesmerizing beats and a mix of glittery and spacey looped synths to create a lush and captivating soundscape. As the track progresses, the music becomes heavier and the mood darker, culminating in a stunning crescendo of swirling string synths in the bridge. The previous beat-driven tempo then returns along with the refrain “All these things I remember”, which continues through to the song’s end.

Regarding the bewitching female vocals, which sound to me a bit like an early Madonna, Tobisonics found the right vocals he desired and looped them. Unfortunately, under the terms of their use, he was not allowed to credit the vocalist.

Connect with Tobisonics: WebsiteFacebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music:  SpotifyApple Music
Purchase:  Google PlayAmazon

FOLLOW DEEP – Album Review: “Will You Still Love Me…”

Follow Deep album art

Follow Deep is a young indie/alternative rock band from Hull, England who are making quite a name for themselves on the UK music scene with their dynamic, innovative music and high-energy performances. Making the music are Luke Bushby (vocals, guitar & bass), Joe Ingram (bass, keyboards & saxophone), and Jed Pearson (drums, vocals). The talented trio skillfully blend elements of alternative, progressive, psychedelic and grunge rock to create their unique, eclectic sound, with an added bonus of having two vocalists and a saxophonist in the mix.

They released their debut single “Bad Influence” in December 2017, then dropped an EP of the same name in July 2018. They followed up with several new singles in 2019, and in December, released their debut album Will You Still Love Me, which I’m finally getting around to reviewing. The album features ten songs addressing the highs and lows of love, along with the myriad perils of entering into romantic relationships.

Follow Deep

The brilliant opening track “Before The Storm” is a shining example of Follow Deep’s solid songwriting and musicianship. The song has everything I love in a great rock song: a complex melody, a strong, driving bassline, intricate, multi-textured guitars, explosive percussion and superb vocals that span a wide emotional range. The aggressive gnarly riffs contrast nicely with the more subdued jangly guitars and deep bass during the track’s calmer interludes, and along with the dramatic stop-start breaks in the melody, keep the song’s overall tension on a high level. I really like Luke’s voice, which goes from a seductive croon as he sings “You’re a fan of Mozart / I love him too / But it’s now your time to…“, then launches into a chilling full-blown scream with “Sing!” I also love his well-placed shouts of “Woo” and the harmonica riff that comes later in the track.  The lyrics seem to speak to our darker impulses, and possibly someone suffering the effects of PTSD. In an voice electronically altered to sound evil and menacing, we hear the words “Do you know what it is to be a monster? You have no idea.”

The band has released two videos for the song, first a lyric video to coincide with the album release last December, then an official video at the end of February. I’ve included them both, as the film footage in the lyric video nicely complements the lyrics, whereas the official video shows the band performing the song.

Next up is the album’s lead single “Alive“, a terrific rock song about the overpowering feelings that hit us when we fall hard for someone: “Cuz you are the reason that I’m not OK. Cuz you are the reason that I’m in pieces.” The dual contrasting vocals of Luke and Jed are highlights on this track and also the sexy and grungy “Sweet Innocence“, one of my favorites on the album. A torrent of grimy guitars and crashing cymbals are layered over a deep, throbbing bassline, creating a sizzling-hot backdrop for the guys’ sultry mix of falsetto and deeper vocals as they alternately croon and wail: “Cuz I don’t wanna behave anymore. There’s no good in your heart.” “Press Rewind” is a bittersweet song about a couple facing the fact their relationship is over, and needing to move on. The track has a pleasing guitar-driven melody, backed by some gentle, sweeping keyboard synths.

Another standout for me is “Hearts In Hands“, with its outstanding bluesy guitars and the guys’ passionate vocals making for a really stellar track. “Lifeline” is a hard-driving rocker, with fuzz-coated jangly guitars, crunchy bass and lots of crashing cymbals. But the real treat is Joe’s lively saxophone solo in the bridge, injecting a bit of a jazzy flourish to the track. “Steal A Flower” is a dark, grungy song with a strutting bass-driven melody. Luke laments about a relationship that began with promise, but ended badly. “How did it get so dark? You are not my destiny. I know what we could have been.” The intense, gnarly riffs and heavy percussion that erupt in the final chorus are fantastic.

Paradise” is another fine example of how Follow Deep expertly fuses grunge with progressive and psychedelic elements to great effect. The track starts off with a fairly straightforward grunge rock melody, with some fine guitar work setting the tone. At 2:23, the guys inject a blast of grinding psychedelic riffs and spooky swirling synths that last about 28 seconds before calming back down to the previous melody. Luke admonishes: “I’ve told you once, won’t tell you twice. I’m sick of being nice. Why do you think you’re making it to paradise?” With that, the music abruptly launches back into the psychedelic trip, only this time with an onslaught of screeching, heavily distorted guitars that continue to the end.

The guys pull out all the stops on the final two tracks, beginning with the bombastic “Start A War“. Luke’s blazing guitar work is positively mind-blowing, accompanied by Joe’s lush, ominous synths that seem to channel Depeche Mode. Jed attacks his drum kit like a man possessed, adding tremendous power to this glorious track. On the 7:18 minute long “The Same“, they complete the question they began asking in the album title “Will you still love me the same?” This monumental track has more of a prog-rock feel, starting off slowly with a hauntingly beautiful little acoustic guitar riff. Gradually, the music expands into a thunderous soundscape, then Joe enters with a terrific, moody sax solo that’s pure bliss. At 3:50, the music calms down to the gentle acoustic guitar of the beginning, while Luke repeatedly croons the question in a lovely falsetto: “When I’m no longer here no more, will you still love me the same?” The music intensifies again, this time into a gorgeous extended instrumental, highlighted by a stunning guitar solo that continues for the last two minutes before fading out. It’s a magnificent track.

Will You Still Love Me… is a superb album from this very talented and creative trio who make up Follow Deep. I don’t know their ages, but I’m guessing they’re barely in their 20s, and their music has a maturity and complexity that’s quite impressive. With so many elements in the mix, there’s a lot going on here from a musical and compositional standpoint, and I found myself discovering something new with each listen. The guys are great songwriters and musicians, and have much to be proud of with their first full-length album. My lone criticism is that I wish a few more tracks featured Jed’s saxophone, but that’s pretty minor in the overall scheme of things.

Catch Follow Deep at one of these upcoming shows:

Sunday, March 8 – w/Bone Broke Kings, Slackrr & King Boa
West Street Live, Sheffield, UK

Thursday April 16 – w/Dude Trips
The Polar Bear, Kingston upon Hull, UK

As their name implies, follow them deeply on FacebookTwitterInstagram
Stream their music on SpotifySoundcloudApple Music
Purchase on Google PlayAmazon

New Song of the Week – AIRPORT IMPRESSIONS: “Why Are We Here?”

Airport Impressions

I’ve written previously about the tremendous amount of great music being produced these days, and though I make an effort to try and keep up, a lot of it slips beneath my radar. Fortunately, I saw a tweet yesterday by my Sheffield, England Twitter friend John Oxley about the new single “Why Are We Here” by alt-rock band Airport Impressions, and immediately liked it so much that I decided to make it my New Song of the Week. I was also a little embarrassed to discover that Airport Impressions and I already follow each other on Twitter, but I’d somehow neglected to check out their music. My bad, because they’re fantastic!

Hailing from Malta, they’re the first artists from that Mediterranean island nation I’ve featured on this blog. They’re also undeniably one of the most successful acts to emerge from Malta. Drawing from elements of rock, pop and folk, their music is incredibly melodic and beautiful, reminiscent of such bands as The Killers, U2, Kings of Leon, and Mumford and Sons. Like many a band, they’ve undergone changes in lineup since forming in 2008, and now founding member Errol Sammut (guitar, lead vocals) is the only original remaining member. In the past two years, Daniel Genius (bass, backing vocals), Ryan Magro (lead guitar) and and Daryl Curmi (drums, percussion) have all joined the band to replace the former members who left.

Airport Impressions 2

Under their previous lineup, Airport Impressions released two outstanding albums, Minutes of a Lifetime in 2010 and Mariette in 2014. They’re both overflowing with gorgeous songs, and I strongly urge my readers to check them out on one of the music streaming platforms listed at the end of this post. Since the new members came on board, the band has released a number of terrific singles, the latest of which is “Why Are We Here?”, which dropped February 28.

The song has a darker feel than most of their music, with ominous industrial synths and a deep, throbbing bass line forming a dramatic foundation for the phenomenal guitar work and smashing drums. The piano and moody organ keyboards add texture and tension to the track, and I love the gnarly guitar solo in the bridge. Sammut’s vocals are fantastic, starting off with a vulnerable croon that sounds a bit like Bono, then erupting into impassioned wails in the chorus, backed by haunting echoed vocals. It’s a magnificent track.

The lyrics could be open to a rather broad interpretation, but to me they seem to speak to the eternal question of the reason for man’s existence – namely, what is the meaning of life, and what is our purpose on this earth? The lines “Can you hear my cries in the pouring rain? Can you walk the walk? Can you hear my call? Can you see me crawl?” are a plea to be noticed, to feel significant, to feel that our existence is worthwhile, especially to those around us.

To learn more about Airport Impressions, check out their Website

Connect with them on FacebookTwitterInstagram
Stream their music:  SpotifySoundcloudApple MusicYouTube
Purchase:  Google PlayAmazon

CuriousHour – Single Review: “She Lies”

Curious Hour She Lies cover

Two years ago, I was blown away when I first heard the music of London alternative blues rock band CuriousHour. In my review of their superb debut EP Explore, I wrote “If you like soulful, blues-soaked rock accompanied by raw, passionate female vocals, then you should be listening to the music of UK band CuriousHour.” It’s been far too long since they’ve put out new music, but I’m happy to report that they’re back with a great new single “She Lies“, which officially drops February 27th. And my recommendation still stands.

Formed in 2014, CuriousHour consists of vocalist Emily Grazebrook, guitarist Andy Grazebrook, bassist Aaron “Bison” Lafayette, and drummer Louis Ricard (who recently replaced Wal Srankiewicz, who played drums on Explore and “She Lies”. On the strengths of their powerful, unique sound and dynamic live shows, they’ve built quite a following in and around London and southern UK.

“She Lies” is a dark and moody track – a “murder ballad” as described by band guitarist Andy. The intense fuzz-covered jangly guitars and deep, muddy grooves are fantastic, with an almost watery quality that quite effectively complements the grim narrative laid out by the lyrics, which were written by Emily. Her raw, soulful vocals are incredibly powerful in expressing the pain and terror of her dire circumstances – that her man is going to drown her to punish her for things she’s done. The words “she lies” can be interpreted to have two meanings: that she’s a liar, and that she now lies at the bottom of the river. Some pretty heavy stuff here.

Father forgive me my sins
He promised me many things
And when he got a hold have mercy on my soul
And when I told him no
He took me down to the river
He held me way down low
Held me way down low on the riverbed 

She lies
(I never lied)
Have mercy on my head

And here on my river bed
Way down here on my river bed
My sins washed away he said

The beautifully filmed but rather disturbing video shows scenes of Emily walking down to a river and touching the water, as a mother desperately clinging to a young boy who would appear to be her son (played by her actual son), knowing it will be the last time she’ll see him, and her lying dead in the river. Have a look and listen:

Catch CuriousHour at one of these upcoming shows:

Friday, Apr 17 – The Birds Nest, London
Friday, May 08 – The Birds Nest, London

Connect with CuriousHour:  FacebookTwitterInstagram
Stream their music:  SpotifyApple MusicSoundcloud
Purchase:  BandcampGoogle PlayAmazon

CORMAC O CAOIMH – Single Review: “I’m in Need”

A few weeks ago, I featured Cork, Ireland-based collaborative music project SomeRiseSomeFall when I reviewed their beautiful song “The Rain Came Down on Everything”. After reading that review, fellow Corkonian (I love that word) musician and singer-songwriter Cormac O Caoimh reached out to me about his new single “I’m in Need“, and I’m glad he did because I really like his music! He’s a skillful wordsmith and guitarist, writing sublime indie folk/pop songs overflowing with thoughtful, intelligent lyrics about the universal subjects of life, love, hope and loss, and delivered with subtle hooks, fine instrumentals and his pleasing vocals that sounds a bit like Paul Simon at times. His catchy melodies seem to effortlessly draw us in, then stay with us long after the songs end. I found myself humming “I’m in Need” long after hearing it. As Mojo Magazine so eloquently put it: “each song superglues to the memory“.

Cormac O Caoimh

Cormac has released a substantial amount of music over the past 15 years or so, including four studio albums, the most recent of which was his marvelous 2017 release Shiny Silvery Things. (I strongly encourage my readers to check out his music, which you can find on most music platforms, some of which I’ve listed at the end of this post.) Now he’s putting the finishing touches on his forthcoming fifth album Swim Crawl Walk Run, due for release on May 15. “I’m in Need” is the album’s lead single, which Cormac released on February 21st. The single and album were produced by his friend and fellow musician Martin Leahy, a talented multi-instrumentalist who’s collaborated with Cormac on previous records, and also played drums, bass, keyboards and more on the new album. The lovely backing vocals on “I’m in Need” and other tracks on the album are by Aoife Regan.

Cormac gave me the opportunity to have an advance listen to Swim Crawl Walk Run, and it’s a stunning work. It’s obvious he poured his heart and soul into it, as he explained in his message to me: “It is the first album I actually enjoyed making. I have been playing live with Martin Leahy for over 8 years but this is my first time making an album with him. It was a joy. I loved the whole process. It was relaxed, exciting, calm, manic. Everything. And the end product is something I could not be prouder of. The songs morphed and moved and grew during the process and the end result is an album I’m not sure I can top. It is full of singles. I want to release them all and I can’t wait for the first one to get out there.”

About the song, Cormac states: “During the writing of ‘I’m in need’ I did have the simplicity and directness of The Beatles ‘Help!’ as an influence. ‘Help me’ as a lyric is so fragile and honest and sad…but the song isn’t. The song is catchy and poppy. It works on two levels. I wanted the same for ‘I’m in need’. I wanted it to have meaning but more so a groove and be catchy. The feeling of the song also evolves. What starts as vulnerable ends up as a celebration of our humanity. We are all in need at times. Our feelings can be shaped by our thoughts. Musically the chorus gets more emphatic and joyful as the song progresses musically demonstrating the power of positivity.”

“I’m in Need” has a mellow and catchy acoustic-guitar driven melody, but a deeper listen also reveals a slight jazzy quality to Cormac’s guitar work that’s quite marvelous. His guitar notes beautifully meld together with the gentle percussion and keyboards, resulting in a harmonious and captivating soundscape. His calm, smooth vocals are exquisite, and like the music, blend in perfect harmony with Aoife Regan’s backing vocals. I like the spacey little sound effects inserted into the middle of the song that perk up our ears.  It’s a lovely and wonderful song.

Catch Cormac at one of these upcoming shows, all in Ireland:

Apr 27 – Mick Murphy’s, Ballymore Eustace
May 02 – The Glens Centre, Manorhamilton
May 15 – Album launch @ The Kino, Cork
May 29 – The Dc Music Club, Dublin
Jun 12 – The Weir Folk Club, Midleton

To learn more about Cormac, check out his Website
Connect with him on  FacebookTwitter
Stream his music on SpotifySoundcloudApple Music
Purchase/pre-order on BandcampWebsiteGoogle Play